Estate planning and trust management may present opportunities for advisors serving high net worth investors. Find out more.
High net worth investors tend to be savvy and successful, but they may have a big blind spot when it comes to estate planning, according to Millionaire Corner research on the attitudes and behaviors of wealthy Americans.
Despite their sizable wealth - $5 million to $25 million, not including primary residence - only 44 percent of high net worth investors hold their assets in the legal structure of a trust and only 31 percent say that they have received estate planning advice from their primary advisor, according to surveys conducted in late 2011. While 11 percent of high net worth investors plan to seek estate planning advice in the future, 30 percent feel they don’t need any advice of this nature, according to our research.
“Many affluent investors avoid the subject of estate planning because it touches on uncomfortable issues - mortality and making sure loved ones are taken care of,” Catherine McBreen, president of Millionaire Corner, said. “It’s worrisome to see such a head-in-the-sand attitude toward a critical aspect of wealth management, especially in times of such great tax uncertainty.”
High net worth investors who do have trusts are extremely likely to designate themselves, a spouse or other family member as trustee. The trend indicates that even the most sophisticated investors may not fully understand the complex and time-consuming demands placed on a trustee, who is charged with carrying out the directives of the trust. Responsibilities can include investing trust assets, filing tax returns and distributing trust assets to beneficiaries.
“It appears most investors prefer asking a family member to carry out their wishes, and may perceive relatives as more dedicated and compassionate,” McBreen said. “Unfortunately family members are not always competent to carry out the duties of trustee, and their decisions can be swayed by family dynamics.”
Our research shows that high net worth investors are even less likely (23 percent) to receive advice from their primary advisors regarding long-term care planning.